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Contact:  John Caher, Director of Public Information, (518) 457-8415
For immediate release: Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009

Local Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner “co-stars” with Emmy Winning Actress
Anne Galloway of Vera House appears with Law & Order’s Mariska Hargitay in training video

As a specially trained sexual assault examiner, Anne Galloway of Vera House in Syracuse usually functions far from the spotlight, working with rape victims in the exceptionally traumatic hours immediately following an attack.
But in a recent project with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), Ms. Galloway appears with Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star Mariska Hargitay in a video produced to train doctors and nurses in the use of a sexual assault evidence collection kit – or “rape kit.”  Ms. Hargitay, a trained rape crisis counselor and founder of an organization dedicated to helping victims heal, does the introduction; Ms. Galloway narrates the 40-minute program.

 “I am honored and humbled to play a ‘supporting role’ to Anne Galloway and the other dedicated professionals who offer both their clinical skills and deep compassion to victims of sexual assault,” Ms. Hargitay said. “They are the real stars of this show.”

The state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) recently revamped the sexual offense evidence collection kit often referred to as the “rape kit,” to reflect advances in DNA technology and to streamline an inevitably discomforting physical examination.

The new kit is being distributed to emergency departments statewide, along with a training video narrated by Ms. Galloway. The video, which has been endorsed by the New York Academy of Medicine and certified for continuing education credits for doctors, provides a step-by-step demonstration on the proper collection of evidence.

Ms. Galloway, a Camillus mother of three, is the Director of the Sexual Assault nurse Examiner Program at Vera House, Inc., a Syracuse not-for-profit organization working to end domestic and sexual violence in Central New York. Last year, when DCJS began producing the training video the agency invited sexual assault examiners to audition for the role of narrator. Ms. Galloway, who has no acting experience, was the unanimous choice of the producers.

“Anne’s professional acumen and deep empathy came across immediately,” said Kim Oppelt, program specialist with the Violence Against Women Unit at DCJS. “One of our goals in producing this video was to stress the clinical and legal responsibilities of medical staff when a sexual assault victim shows up in the emergency department. Anne has a soothing, caring quality that complements her technical expertise. Any viewer would know instantly how deeply Anne cares about her work and her patients.”

Ms. Galloway said, “I am honored to be part of a process that will assist medical providers in becoming more comfortable with forensic evidence collection. There are many facets to taking care of a patient who reports sexual assault, including the physical exam, addressing concerns related to infections and pregnancy, providing emotional support and, of course, collecting the physical evidence and documenting our findings. It is a role all providers take very seriously, and we want very much to do it correctly.”

New York State Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise E. O’Donnell said the Sexual Assault Evidence Collection kit is designed to make the inherently intrusive physical examination less traumatic for victims and more productive for law enforcement.

“A medical professional’s first allegiance is always to the well-being of his or her patient,” said Deputy Secretary O’Donnell, a former federal prosecutor. “But when confronted with a sexual assault, emergency department physicians and nurses have an additional and often unsettling responsibility – the collection of physical evidence. This evidence is absolutely crucial in apprehending sexual assailants, and stopping them before they can strike again.”

Ms. Hargitay, who plays Detective Olivia Benson in the hit series, said she became attuned to the epidemic of sexual assault when she started receiving dozens of letters and emails from survivors anxious to share their story. In 2004, she founded the Joyful Heart Foundation to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.

“That these individuals would reveal something so intensely personal - often for the very first time - to someone they knew only as a fictional character on television demonstrated to me how desperate they were to be heard, how desperate they were to be believed, understood, comforted and healed,” Ms. Hargitay said. “The healing process often begins at the hospital – and having caring and competent people like Anne Galloway is a crucial first step toward recovery.”